Well, I have finally reached the conclusion I should have realized from the start.
I cannot create anything non-trivial in blender with the hardware I have. I think my bottleneck is the graphics card.
I have an old-ish appliance box that runs at 1.3G and has 768 M ram dual booting Win XP and Ubuntu. I realize that isn’t much, but I feel it should be suitable to run blender appreciably- IF I had a real graphics card.
I have an ATI Radeon 7800 which is pretty much worthless for graphics applications. I can’t even run blender in Ubuntu with this card.
I need to get a new card. My primary limiting factor is budget, and my primary driving factor is blender performance.
What would be the best card to get to maximize the cheapness-to-blender-power ratio?
Thanks for your help, everybody.